Climate change is driving climate change
Global warming is homemade. For sustainable development, people must reduce their emissions of climate-damaging gases by three quarters by 2050. If that doesn’t work, climate change could accelerate dramatically.
Consequences of the industrial revolution
For many million years, the Earth’s climate has been linked to a fairly well-regulated carbon budget. As if God’s Minister of the Environment had invested his carbon dioxide budget over time, sometimes in a solid, sometimes in a gaseous state, and moved it from the biosphere to the atmosphere and back again.
The industrial revolution, which was only possible through the mass combustion of oil, coal and gas, has interfered in this distribution and billions of tons of carbon, which until then had been stored as coal, oil and gas underground and in the oceans, were in gaseous form CO2 is transformed and blown into the atmosphere. But while the Lord’s Minister took millions of years to complete his transactions, the industrial revolutionaries only needed a few decades to shift the weights.
Natural carbon landfills
Forces in the global carbon cycle counteract this shift and capture some of the carbon dioxide released by humans: the biosphere and the oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and store it again in the soil or convert it into solid compounds and deposit it the seabed. These carbon reservoirs have already absorbed half of the carbon dioxide released by humans. The soil and the oceans are therefore called natural carbon landfills.
Rising water temperatures
But the landfills are getting full, especially the seas. The pH value of the oceans has already dropped by 0.1 point due to the carbon dioxide absorbed since 1750 – the oceans have become more acidic. At the same time, the absorption capacity of the sea decreases with rising water temperatures – as forecast in the course of the greenhouse effect. The higher the global average temperature rises, the less carbon dioxide the oceans absorb; the faster the temperature rises. A vicious circle.
The balancing effect of the biosphere is also reduced by deforestation of the tropical forests and the use of the soil for agriculture and settlements. The spread of deserts, which is accelerating with global warming, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, is exacerbating the problem.
It is estimated that the biosphere can now absorb between three and four billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. This is also the upper limit of what people can still emit if they want to maintain today’s global climate. However, this amount will decrease if the temperature rise disrupts the carbon cycle and environmental degradation further reduces the biosphere’s ability to absorb CO2.
Solution: drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions
The natural carbon landfills will not remove the climate problem. Humans must reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the source. And in order not to overload the biosphere’s capacity, greenhouse gas emissions will have to be cut by three quarters worldwide within the next fifty years.
How is this task distributed? Does every country have to reduce its emissions to a quarter? Should we set a maximum amount of CO2 per capita and year – for example to 0.5 tons of carbon or 1.8 tons of carbon dioxide? These questions must be answered in the negotiations for a new climate agreement.
Climate contribution of the countries
Even if the people in the industrialized countries meet their target, the emerging countries of Asia and South America will also have to make their climate contribution. In the Kyoto process, they have not imposed any obligations for the period up to 2012. The value of the commitments made at the Bali climate conference in December 2007 will be shown in the negotiations on the follow-up Kyoto agreement. The fact that the governments in Indonesia could not agree on fixed guidelines shows that people are not yet aware of their responsibilities.